Ferroportin Q248H mutation has an allele frequency of 2.2-13.4% in African populations and is associated with a mild tendency to increased serum ferritin in the general population. Some investigators have reported that ferroportin Q248H is degraded after exposure to hepcidin in exactly the same manner as wild-type ferroportin, but supraphysiological concentrations of hepcidin were used. The aim of our study was to determine whether ferroportin Q248H may have reduced sensitivity to physiological concentrations of hepcidin. The sensitivity of ferroportin Q248H to hepcidin was determined in 293T cells transiently expressing ferroportin using immunoblotting and fluorescence analysis. Ferritin concentrations were measured in these cells and also in human primary monocytes derived from humans with different ferroportin genotypes. The effect of Q248H on serum iron measures was examined in patients with sickle cell anemia. Immunoblotting and fluorescence analysis showed decreased sensitivity of ferroportin Q248H to physiological concentrations of hepcidin. Lower ferritin concentrations were observed after incubation with iron and hepcidin in 293T cells expressing ferroportin Q248H and in primary monocytes from ferroportin Q248H subjects. In sickle cell anemia, ferroportin Q248H heterozygotes had lower serum ferritin concentrations than wild-type subjects, consistent with enhanced iron release by macrophage ferroportin Q248H. A clinical benefit of ferroportin Q248H was suggested by lower echocardiographic estimates of pulmonary artery pressure in patients carrying mutant alleles. In conclusion, our results suggest that ferroportin Q248H protein is resistant to physiological concentrations of hepcidin and that this mutation has discernible effects on iron metabolism-related clinical complications of sickle cell anemia. They provide a mechanistic explanation for the effect of ferroportin Q248H on iron status in individuals of African descent and suggest that these changes in iron metabolism may be beneficial under certain disease-specific circumstances. (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier:NCT00011648).
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